Today, Judy Russell at The Legal Genealogist published “DNA testing for adoptees: 2017,” an EXCELLENT primer for adoptees or foundlings looking to use DNA to find their biological family. If you’ve tested your DNA and spent time with your results, it is likely that you’ve encountered an adoptee looking for information. If you are an adoptee, Judy’s post is a MUST read, as it contains a NEW testing plan due to a new “pond to fish in,” a genealogy company offering autosomal DNA testing for the first time in 2016. Here’s the link, just be sure to come back after you’re done reading: “DNA testing for adoptees: 2017.”
The American Adoption Congress
In April, I will be an invited keynote speaker at the 38th Annual American Adoption Congress International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. In that keynote, I want to provide adoptees with information about how DNA can help them (for many this will undoubtedly be their first introduction to the power of DNA). However, I also wanted to share the experience of adoptees who test in the databases today. How often do they find biological family? What are their closest matches? And so much more.
So, in preparation for the lecture, I created a survey last October asking adoptees a series of nine questions about their experience with DNA testing:
- Are You an Adoptee?
- Did You Take an Autosomal DNA Test in 2015 or 2016?
- At Which Company Did You Take an Autosomal DNA Test in 2015 or 2016?
- When You FIRST Received Your Results, What Was Your Closest Match? (If you don’t yet know the exact relationship, please provide the approximate company prediction, or the most likely relationship based on total shared cM).
- Did You Identify one or both Biological Parents, or one or more Siblings or Half-Siblings, as a Result of DNA Testing?
- Did you receive assistance from a search angel?
- Are You Still Actively Looking For Your Biological Family?
- From What Country Were You Adopted?
- Do You Have Any Comments to Add?
The full survey is available here: https://goo.gl/forms/ggJfMppw9T9xuCYY2
As of today, there have been more than 700 responses from adoptees. THANK YOU to everyone that participated!! To have an even better dataset, I’m hoping to have 1,000 before the conference in April.
Many were upset by the fact that I didn’t ask for adoptees that tested prior to 2015, but there was a very important reason. The databases are double or triple the size they were in 2010-2014, and I wanted a snapshot of what it was like for adoptees who recently tested. Indeed, the results of the current study will be obsolete in 2017, 2018, and beyond as the databases grow by millions every year.
Now, of course I recognize that this is an informal study. Participant selection, especially, is problematic. I recruited mostly from Facebook groups (i.e., DNA Detectives) and other online forums. A perfect study would have a more formal recruitment process. Regardless, I think there is important information here that at least gives us a glimpse into the experience of adoptees testing their DNA.
Preliminary Results of the Study
Here are some preliminary results of the study, based on 700+ responses.
Question: At Which Company Did You Take an Autosomal DNA Test in 2015 or 2016?
- AncestryDNA: 89%
- 23andMe: 38%
- Family Tree DNA: 28%
- Other: 1%
Question: When You FIRST Received Your Results, What Was Your Closest Match? (If you don’t yet know the exact relationship, please provide the approximate company prediction, or the most likely relationship based on total shared cM).
- Parent(s) – 1.7%
- Sibling(s) or Half-Sibling(s) – 5.9%
- Aunt/Uncle/Niece/Nephew – 4.7%
- First Cousin(s) or Half First Cousin – 20.6%
- Second Cousin(s) or Half Second Cousin – 33.6%
- Third Cousins – 21.2%
- Fourth Cousins – 9.7%
- Other – 2.7%
So, nearly a third of DNA-tested adoptees in this study log into their account and have a half-first cousin or closer! And 66.5% have a half second cousin or closer, which usually takes a minimal amount of detective work. This clearly speaks to the immense size of the DNA databases.
Question: Did You Identify one or both Biological Parents, or one or more Siblings or Half-Siblings, as a Result of DNA Testing?
- Yes – a biological parent – 34.4%
- Yes – both biological parents – 12.7%
- Yes – one or more siblings or half-siblings – 18.5%
- No – 49.5%
DNA testing helped 50% of test-takers in the study find a sibling or parent, and 34% of the time the test-taker found both biological parents! Unfortunately, about 50% are still looking for siblings or parents.
Question: Did you receive assistance from a search angel?
- Yes – 41%
- No – 59%
Question: Are You Still Actively Looking For Your Biological Family?
- Yes – 72%
- No – 29%
Question: From What Country Were You Adopted?
- United States – 82%
- Other – 18%
The two most surprising findings, in my opinion, are that 50% of test-takers in the study found a sibling or parent due to DNA testing, and that nearly a third of DNA-tested adoptees in the study logged into their account on day one and had a half-first cousin or closer.
I’m excited to see what this study looks like a year, two years, and five years from now as the databases continue to explode in size!
There is a wealth of information still to be mined. For example, questions like the following could be answered with this data:
- Does working with a search angel improve the odds of finding a close family member?
- Does testing at one company or another improve the odds of finding a close family member?
- Does testing at multiple companies improve the odds of finding a close family member?
- Does the country adopted from affect the outcome?
- And more; what questions could you come up with from this data?
If YOU are an adoptee who tested for the first time in 2015 or 2016, I would be honored if you would complete the survey. I would like to have more than 1,000 responses by the April conference. Thank you!!